Though Grave Digger's rise began in the mid-1980's, they aren't exactly part of that American/German thrash evolution that brought us Metallica, Kreator or Destruction. It's probably best to say that their roots and influences came from NWOBM earlier in the decade. Still going strong after 28 years, Grave Digger brings us more classic heavy metal with 'Ballad Of A Hangman,' their fourteenth studio album. With few exceptions, this another fine effort from Grave Digger.
'Ballad Of A Hangman' is novel for one important thing: Grave Digger has added a second guitarist in Thilo Herrmann (Risk, Running Wild) to their already strong lineup. If memory serves me correctly, I believe this is the first time they have had a twin guitar attack. This is a significant addition and the difference is felt immediately on songs like 'Into The War,' 'The Shadow Of Your Soul' and the most impressive, 'Stormrider.'
As for the rest of the album, 'Ballad' is marked by strong and varied compositions. Grave Digger can step up it up and give a hearty nod to their thrash brothers on 'Sorrow Of The Dead' and 'Stormrider.' The two most exciting numbers are 'Lonely The Innocent Dies' and 'Pray' (previously released on EP in November 2008). The former offers a unique vocal arrangement, almost a duet, of clean and gruff vocals over an arrangement that swings between intensity and melody. 'Pray' is simply outstanding: genuinely gripping as melody dovetails with metal in great riffs and a perfect vocal arrangement.
As for the exceptions, Grave Digger's metal gets a little maudlin on two numbers, namely the title track and 'Grave Of The Addicted. Though generally good, the first veers towards narrow power metal and the second is rather average traditional metal. Otherwise, as I said at the beginning, 'Ballad Of A Hangman' is another fine work from Grave Digger.
When I hear songs like 'Pray' or 'Lonely The Innocent Dies,' I hope that Grave Digger sticks around a few more years. Time and age can crush the optimism and creativity of some bands turning them into just another reunion band cashing in for retirement. Grave Digger is not resting on their laurels. They're just staying metal. Very recommended!
When I hear songs like 'Pray' or 'Lonely The Innocent Dies,' I hope that Grave Digger sticks around a few more years. Time and age can crush the optimism and creativity of some bands turning them into just another reunion band cashing in for retirement. Grave Digger is not resting on their laurels. They're just staying metal.
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